With a round-the-world trip on the horizon (leaving in three weeks!), I find it very easy to get caught up reading articles, blogs, columns, reviews, guidebooks… the list goes on. On one hand, I want to know everything, but on the other, I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
But it just dawned on me that there’s no chance of ruining the surprise. And that’s because the literature can never compare to (or prepare you for) real face-to-face encounters.
Everyone has an original story… and at least a handful of different ways to tell it. But it’s not just the story that makes these encounters so memorable; it’s the facial expressions, the wild hand gestures, the vocal intonation and the completely unedited thoughts. You get to live the experience through all of your senses.
There’s still a very strong argument for reading. And in a way, reading presents a side to stories that you can’t possibly experience through face-to-face meetings. But in my current situation (and I suspect for many others), I’m at risk of living too much through the written word and not enough through real-world experience; hence, this post.
This is largely why I love to travel, and particularly with people whom I’ve never met. In the first instance, you have a real adventure with someone whom has similar interests and aspirations. And in the second instance, you get to experience their reactions and thoughts when meeting other people in far-off places.
Back to the event that sparked this post… I went to my first Sydney Travel Tribe meet-up last week; it’s a monthly cheers for travel devotees – bloggers, tweeters, and websites. And in a way, it was an otherworldly experience.
For months I’ve been getting to know these inspiring travellers: reading their blogs, re-tweeting their great links, crawling their websites, sharing ideas, and commenting on their posts. But on this night, it felt as if we were all in another dimension. A dimension in which I’d met them, knew some of their recent past, but still knew nothing about them.
It was invaluable having spoke to them before online, but it was even more valuable meeting them all in the flesh. I just got so much more from the experience than I could have ever imagined.
Ian from Travellr gave some invaluable start-up advice, business ideas were constantly flowing from Katrina, World Nomads‘ partnership manager, and Alicia played paparazzi for her video blog. Karla shared her first reactions and feedback on Globetrooper.com, Kevin introduced me to his upcoming site about broke backpackers, and I met the Ex-Officio underwear poster girl, Brooke from Brooke vs. the World. Others worthy of a mention: Anna, Betsie, Dina and Graham. Sorry if I missed anyone or didn’t end up meeting you – there’s always next month!
Back to travel… I still think it’s important to read-up before travelling. It gives you an empathy and appreciation for people that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But with our current technology, you can ride the Trans-Siberian at your desk, if really want to! And that’s the danger, that we can be lulled into a false sense of experience through the Internet and literature. But no matter what happens, it will never supplant reality.
That’s because travel is not just about seeing or arriving in a new landscape, it’s about the journey, the people you meet along the way, the experiences you share, and the memories that you create.
I’m obviously still to find the right balance between living vicariously and just living life. So where do you think we should draw the line?